Amid Ongoing Investigation into the Boeing 737 MAX, Chairs DeFazio Asks FAA Administrator to Provide Results of Employee Survey on Safety Culture
Today, as part of the ongoing investigation into the design, development and certification of the Boeing 737 MAX, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) asked the top official at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a copy of a 2019 survey of FAA employees about the agency’s safety culture. Notably, the survey of the Office of Aviation Safety includes FAA employees involved in the Organization Designation Authorization program, which has been a point of focus for the Committee’s investigation into the two separate crashes involving the 737 MAX that killed a total of 346 people. DeFazio also sent a similar request to the non-profit organization that helped facilitate the employee survey.
In his request to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, DeFazio commended the agency for conducting the survey and FAA’s stated intention to use the results to help improve its safety reporting processes for employees but stressed “the results must be thoroughly analyzed and properly implemented.” To that end, DeFazio stated to Administrator Dickson that fulfilling his request for the survey and underlying documents “will help our Committee properly fulfill our congressional role overseeing the FAA and its efforts to help improve the safety culture at the agency.”
To date, the Committee has held five public hearings on the design, development and certification of the Boeing 737 MAX; obtained more than 600,000 pages of documents from Boeing, FAA, and others; and interviewed dozens of current and former Boeing and FAA employees. For more information on the Committee’s ongoing investigation into the Boeing 737 MAX, click here.
The full letter to FAA Administrator Dickson is below and here.
July 20, 2020
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
U.S. Department of Transportation
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591
Dear Administrator Dickson:
As you are well aware, our Committee continues to investigate a broad array of issues surrounding the design, development and certification of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft, and related issues. One of those core issues is the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) safety culture and the structure and oversight of the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) program. Our Committee’s investigation has already determined that issues surrounding the ODA played key contributing roles in the regrettable 737 MAX crashes of Lion Air flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 that resulted in the preventable deaths of 346 individuals, including eight Americans.
The Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently reported that the FAA had sent two letters of investigation notifying Boeing in June 2019 and March 2020 that they were launching investigations regarding potential violations related to the ODA program. Bloomberg News recently reported on these actions, writing that the investigations were related to “undue pressure” in the ODA program. We encourage you to vigorously pursue these investigations and to hold Boeing to account for any violations of FAA’s regulations or U.S. law.
However, it is essential that FAA officials have the authority, resources, willingness and support from FAA’s senior management to thoroughly and aggressively manage the ODA program. To do that effectively it is vital that the FAA’s Office of Aviation Safety (AVS), that plays an important role managing the ODA, has a strong and resilient safety culture. We understand that the FAA recently completed its “2019 AVS Safety Culture Survey” and that it intends to utilize the results of this survey to “more effectively implement a new voluntary safety reporting program for AVS employees,” according to an e-mail announcing the survey that was sent to FAA employees. These are positive steps. But the results must be thoroughly analyzed and properly implemented.
We believe reviewing the results of this survey will help our Committee properly fulfill our congressional role overseeing the FAA and its efforts to help improve the safety culture at the agency. As a result, we are requesting copies of the following records:
- A copy of the FAA’s 2019 AVS Safety Culture Survey questionnaire completed in December 2019.
- A complete copy of all raw survey data. This should include, but not be limited to, all written narrative responses.
- All analytical products that pertain to the survey results, including power-point presentations, memorandums, reports, studies, statistical analyses or any other records. This should include all records produced both by the FAA or any of its consultants or contractors including, but not limited to, The MITRE Corporation.
Please provide copies of all of the requested documents and data above by August 3, 2020. If compliance with the request cannot be made in full by the specified return date, compliance shall be made to the extent possible by that date. An explanation of why full compliance is not possible shall be provided in written form along with any partial production. If necessary, please provide the requested information and documents on a rolling basis. With each production please be certain to include a separate cover letter identifying the material that is being submitted to the Committee.
You may contact Committee staff to discuss a priority order of delivery of the records requested above and to discuss arrangements for the electronic submission of this information to both Majority and Minority Staff of the Committee. Any questions regarding this request should be directed to ________________ on the Majority Staff at ___________.
I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter and a speedy and complete response.
PETER A. DeFAZIO RICK LARSEN
Subcommittee on Aviation
cc: The Honorable Sam Graves, Ranking Member
The Honorable Garret Graves, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Aviation
 “Timeline of Activities Leading to the Certification of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 Aircraft and Actions Taken After the October 2018 Lion Air Accident,” Office of Inspector General (OIG), Department of Transportation (DOT), Report No. AV2020037, p. 37, June 29, 2020, accessed here: https://www.oig.dot.gov/sites/default/files/FAA%20Oversight%20of%20Boeing%20737%20MAX%20Certification%20Timeline%20Final%20Report.pdf
 Alan Levin, “FAA Probing Boeing’s Alleged Pressure on Designated Inspectors,” Bloomberg News, July 9, 2020, accessed here: https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/faa-probing-boeing-s-alleged-pressure-on-designated-inspectors-1.1463003